Forest Park Mayor Rory Hoskins (left) shakes hands with Governor J. B. Pritzker on June 17 at the signing of the bill making Juneteenth a state holiday. | Photo by Buzz McBride

Mayor Rory Hoskins participated in the signing of House Bill 3922, which officially made June 19 Juneteenth National Freedom Day in Illinois. The bill was signed by Governor J. B. Pritzker on June 16, and Hoskins was invited to share some comments at the event in Springfield.

“With this new law, no longer can a child grow up in Illinois without learning about Juneteenth in school,” Pritzker said. “With this change, the people of Illinois will have a day to reflect on how the freedom that we celebrate just two weeks later, on the Fourth of July, was delayed to Black Americans.”

Juneteenth celebrates and commemorates a day in 1865 when enslaved individuals, who had not been freed after Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan.1, 1863, learned that they were free.

Hoskins brought the holiday to Forest Park in 2009 with the Jubilee Pool Party at the park, stating that the location was significant because public pools were one of the last places to be integrated.

As the first Black elected official in the village, Hoskins said he felt that as a leader of color, he wanted to establish the tradition locally, a tradition he said he didn’t always pay much attention to growing up in Texas, where he took it for granted.

But when he moved to Forest Park, he missed the celebration and tradition and wanted to bring it here. Last year, the Juneteenth Committee put together a video, in which Hoskins and other residents and local leaders talk about the significance of Juneteenth. The video is available at

With the signing of the law, June 19 is officially a paid holiday for state workers and public-school employees when that day falls during the week.